17 August 1967
Today in 1967, the Birmingham Post revealed that, despite Britain’s commitment to neutrality in the war between Nigeria’s military junta and the secessionist state of Biafra, and despite the government’s claim that it would only provide the generals with military equipment which was defensive in nature, two British built fast seaward class patrol boats had arrived at Devonport two days earlier, and were on route for Nigeria. The newspaper claimed that the export of the two boats had been subjected to a ‘Whitehall news blackout.’1
Although one function of the boats was to protect harbours from submarines, since Biafra had no submarine fleet, Whitehall was well aware that they would in fact be used to tighten the rigorous blockade on the breakaway state, who’s Igbo population were already suffering from sharply increased food prices. Each of the 120 ton vessels was armed with a 40mm bofors gun and fittings for machine guns on the bridge wings. They soon became become indispensable tools in the hands of the federal government, enabling it to eventually win the war by cutting off Biafra from the outside world and inflicting an unprecedented famine which killed at least a million people.2
- ‘Secrecy over two boats for Nigeria,’ The Birmingham Post, 21 August 1967, p. 18.
- ‘Ford Class Seaward Defence Boat – 1952’, accessed online on 14 January 2018 at url https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/history/hms-ford.htm and William Duyile, ‘Nature and Impact of Involvement of the Navy in the Nigerian Civil War’, The International Journal of Naval History, August 2016, Volume 13, issue 2 accessed online on 14 January 2018 at url http://www.ijnhonline.org/2016/11/17/nature-and-impact-of-involvement-of-the-navy-in-the-nigerian-civil-war-1967-1970/
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